TV Review: ‘Community’ Opens Third Season on Confident Note

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CHICAGO – The second season of “Community” was a daring display of creativity without concern. It really felt like the producers of the show had been so freed by the fact that the nearly-canceled comedy was still on the air that they completely gave up on trying to please anyone but the program’s loyal fans. It was a show that didn’t “play” to anyone, never going for the easy, predictable joke as is common in the world of the sitcom. It was dark, clever, edgy, and unpredictable. And it was one of the best sitcoms of 2010-2011. Where does it go now? What will the third season of “Community” be like? Will it slide in quality? Maintain? Could it possibly get better?

HollywoodChicago.com TV Rating: 4.0/5.0
TV Rating: 4.0/5.0

None of these questions are fully answered with the season premiere, but it does hint at a team of comedy writers that could be willing to take even more chances than they did in a season with episodes inspired by “My Dinner With Andre” and “Frosty the Snowman.” How is that possible? Well, “Biology 101” opens with a musical number and features a bizarre multi-Jeff dream sequence for its hero. Add to those two scenes the casting of John Goodman and Michael K. Williams (“Boardwalk Empire”) as new recurring characters and it feels even more like “Community” is willing to take risks. Most “safe” sitcoms would never produce anything close to the oddity that is “Biology 101,” an episode about power struggles, a new class for the study group, a man who lives in the vents, and even a monkey named Annie’s Boobs. There’s nothing safe about “Community.”

Community
Community
Photo credit: NBC

Of course, with every show that takes as many creative risks as “Community,” there is the potential for something to fall flat. I’ll admit to thinking that the season premiere of “Community” is a notch down from when this show is at its best. There are still some incredibly clever and funny lines but the cast seems to be getting overcrowded. Adding Goodman and Williams while making Jim Rash a more permanent full-time cast member leads to a premiere that’s almost cluttered with activity. And I criticize because I ADORE this ensemble. I don’t want to see talented supporting stars like Alison Brie and Donald Glover pushed into the background, as fun as it may be to see John Goodman return to network comedy. I hope my concern isn’t that well-founded and that the writers of “Community” know that their greatest strength is their core ensemble.

In the season premiere, the gang is faced with deciding whether or not to allow Pierce (Chevy Chase) back into their study group and what class to take this year. When Pierce can’t get into “Biology 101” (taught by a harsh ex-con played by Williams), Jeff (Joel McHale) takes the opportunity to basically kick him out of the group. After a speech about how none of them really need the group any more, our hero has the tables turned on him and ends up outside looking in.

Meanwhile, Goodman makes his first appearance as Vice Dean Laybourne, the Dean of the Air Conditioning Repair Annex at Greendale, who Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) learns is basically running the whole show. The alpha male persona of Goodman proves a funny oil-and-water counterpart to Rash’s style. We also learn that Chang (Ken Jeong) is still living in the air vents and Abed (Danny Pudi) snaps when he discovers that “Cougar Town” won’t be back on the air until mid-season. Britta (Gillian Jacobs) introduces the pop-culture obsessed young man to the British show on which “Cougar Town” was reportedly based with hysterical results.

Once again, “Community” contains a level of creativity that’s arguably higher than any other comedy currently on TV. The fact that the season premiere is a bit sub-part for the show is only a minor complaint. Below-average “Community” is still pretty spectacular.

The third season premiere of “Community” airs on Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 at 7pm CST on NBC. It stars Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash, John Goodman, and Michael K. Williams.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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